Rensselaer Team To Continue Study of Fluid Dynamics Related to Serious Diseases in Space

Rensselaer Team To Continue Study of Fluid Dynamics Related to Serious Diseases in Space

By Torie Wells

October 7, 2020

With the support of a new grant from NASA, a team of engineers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute will continue its study of amyloid fibril formation aboard the International Space Station.

Amyloid fibrils are clusters of proteins that are linked to diseases like diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s. Fluid motion in the body causes shear stress, which can increase the rate at which proteins lose their natural form and turn into fibrils, or affect how toxic protein structures are cleared away. On Earth, studying this process is complicated by the containers that are needed to hold fluid, which affect fibril formation.

Amir Hirsa, a professor of mechanical, aerospace, and nuclear engineering at Rensselaer, has developed a novel concept he calls a “ring-sheared drop,” which allows fluid dynamics to be studied without a container in a microgravity environment. He has worked with NASA to build hardware to allow this method to be deployed in space.

Last July, Hirsa and his team sent samples of human recombinant insulin protein to the ISS in order to test the ring-sheared drop hardware and to study the formation of amyloid fibrils.

This newest grant will allow the Rensselaer team to send a second set of protein samples into space to continue this nearly decade-long project. The new experiment is scheduled to be launched to the ISS sometime next year.


For general inquiries:

About Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Founded in 1824, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is America’s first technological research university. Rensselaer encompasses five schools, over 30 research centers, more than 140 academic programs including 25 new programs, and a dynamic community made up of over 6,800 students and 104,000 living alumni. Rensselaer faculty and alumni include upwards of 155 National Academy members, six members of the National Inventors Hall of Fame, six National Medal of Technology winners, five National Medal of Science winners, and a Nobel Prize winner in Physics. With nearly 200 years of experience advancing scientific and technological knowledge, Rensselaer remains focused on addressing global challenges with a spirit of ingenuity and collaboration. To learn more, please visit